Good Reads: From domestic violence, to lion survival, to the cost of Medicare

In this week's round-up of Good Reads includes fighting domestic violence, a look at how lions survive, why apps can't end poverty, Greek youth unemployment, and the Medicare panel that decides your health-care costs.

Randy Roberts/The Courier/AP
Male participants in an Ohio domestic violence awareness walk wore red, high-heeled shoes.

To fight domestic violence

Between 2000 and 2006, more than 10,600 people were killed in domestic homicides in the United States. About 3,200 US soldiers were killed overseas during the same period. A new approach to assessing domestic homicide risk could change the trajectory of these crimes.

In The New Yorker, Rachel Louise Snyder highlights cases overseen by Kelly Dunne, chief operating officer of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center in Amesbury, Mass. In 2005, Ms. Dunne created a Domestic High Violence Risk Team, which began including local police, hospitals, and courts when assessing domestic homicide risk case by case.

“Dunne attributes the prevalence of domestic violence, in part, to a deep cultural misunderstanding of how violence operates,” writes Ms. Snyder. “We assume that victims incite abuse, or that if the situation at home was truly threatening they would leave. Restraining orders, when filed, are thought to keep perpetrators away. And, if a woman fails to ... renew a restraining order, the assumption is that the problem has somehow been resolved.”

It usually means the opposite, but that is where Dunne’s strategy comes into play: recognizing potentially lethal behavior and helping victims take steps to avoid it. Since 2005, none of Dunne’s cases have ended in homicide.

Lion king or coalition

Why do lions live in prides when many other big cats (like jaguars, cougars, and tigers) lead a solitary life?

“Continual risk of death, even more than the ability to cause it, is what shapes the social behavior of this ferocious but ever jeopardized animal,” writes David Quammen for National Geographic. “The lion is the only feline that’s truly social, living in prides and coalitions, the size and dynamics of which are determined by an intricate balance of evolutionary costs and benefits.”

Mr. Quammen followed a group of researchers in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, where the highest concentration of the world’s 35,000 lions live. They use 40 years of data to uncover patterns of lion behavior in such wild, harsh conditions.

An app to end global poverty?

There are applications that know what you want before you do. But can Silicon Valley’s ingenuity apply to ending global poverty? In Foreign Policy, Charles Kenny and Justin Sandefur raise some doubts. They point out that technology has already done much to improve lives in the developing world – think vaccines, radios, bicycles, and cellphones. But many well-intentioned high-tech projects (like One Laptop Per Child or Soccket) fail to meet the reality on the ground. Despite the fact that extreme poverty has decreased by half, millions of people still die from preventable diseases.

“None of this is for a lack of science; often it isn’t even for lack of money. It is because parents don’t follow simple health practices like washing their hands, government bureaucrats can’t or won’t provide basic water and sanitation programs, and arbitrary immigration restrictions prevent the poor from moving...,” the authors write. “Sorry, but no iPhone, even one loaded with the coolest apps, is going to change all that.”

Youth unemployment in Greece

Youth unemployment in Europe is particularly severe in Greece, where 55.3 percent of young adults don’t have jobs.

“Absent a rapid and dramatic economic turnaround, an entire generation in Southern Europe faces years, possibly decades, of dependency and disillusionment – with consequences that can’t be measured in economic terms alone,” writes Stephan Faris in Bloomberg Businessweek.

For many young Greeks, this means living with their parents and waiting to start families. Although the economy is showing signs of mending, there still aren’t enough jobs to be found. About 160 young Greeks apply for one job opening, although that number is down from 330 in January 2012, according to a jobs website.

Secret committee sets Medicare prices

In Washington Monthly, Haley Sweetland Edwards takes an in-depth look at the hidden process behind determining how doctors bill Medicare for specialized procedures and general care. Based more on politics than science, prices are set by the Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (or RUC), convened three times a year by the American Medical Association.

The RUC sends its recommendations to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which doesn’t have the resources to investigate the prices independently.

“Because of the way the system is set up, the values the RUC comes up with wind up shaping the very structure of the U.S. health care sector, creating the perverse financial incentives that dictate how our doctors behave, and affecting the annual expenditure of nearly one-fifth of our GDP,” Ms. Edwards writes.

The small group of doctors, driving up fees for their services, drive up the entire cost of health care in the country. The author argues that the process requires major reform before Americans will receive the best care at the lowest cost.

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